Building backlinks is a highly controversial topic within the SEO community. It’s been a long time since 2012, when Google launched Penguin on its crusade against the manipulation of search results and paid link building. “Link builders” became the equivalent of pirates in the sea of SEO, so, like pirates, they are both seen as criminals or heroes depending on the point of view. But even numerous updates and constant threats of penalties couldn’t fully put an end to paid backlinks.
This being said, the market and offering has changed significantly over the years. The need for a “natural” looking backlink profile, together with a number of other algorithms more focused on quality and fighting spammy websites, made link building (yet not all of it) much smarter.
However, after another link related update around the winter of 2017-2018, when Google announced that they will not penalise websites directly for link building anymore, rather they will simply ignore the links that they deem unnatural, the questions surrounding the benefits of link building were raised again. This time, when the thrill of risky measures is not as exciting, more down to earth questions reappeared:
- Do backlinks still work at all?
- Is it a cost efficient investment?
The answer to both of these questions is “yes”. Nevertheless, the link building techniques as well as the budget considerations should be approached differently.
What are backlinks for and why do they still work?
For beginners, backlinks for SEO are links placed on other websites pointing to your website. To understand the value of backlinks, it might be worth simplifying it and treating backlinks as “references” to your website. This can be seen as a “word of mouth” among websites. Natural backlinks are not meant for advertising purposes, rather the natural sharing of valuable information with users. So the fact that “paid” links are obviously purchased and not voluntarily shared is the core reason why paid backlinks are considered to be a manipulation of Google’s guidelines.
At the same time, the exact same explanation of what it is, makes it hard to believe, that despite what Google says, backlinks will ever be anything less than a major ranking factor. At the end of the day, putting everything else aside, what if there are no references giving unaware users a sign that it is worth their time and/or money. Just as you wouldn’t visit an unknown hotel without first reading a review and doing research on the establishment, so too Google uses external links pointing to your site as a reference on the quality and relevancy for certain topics. So it seems logical and rational that links will remain an important ranking factor as long as organic results aren’t completely replaced with paid ads. Which in the context of this article, is a very disappointing possibility in the light of Google’s heroic march against paying for search appearance…
How to get good quality backlinks to your site?
So…if backlinks still work, then “how to get more backlinks?” is a fair questions. And an even more important question would be “how to get natural backlinks?”. There are a number of more or less advanced ways to acquire more links, and almost each of them deserves its own dedicated article. So let’s start with a short overview.
Quality & Uniqueness
This might seem very obvious yet unfortunately, it’s not always the case. Whether you offer services, products, solutions, or even information, you should aim for exceptional quality. The better your website is, the more valuable the content you share is, and the better your USP on your products are, the more chances you have to get truly natural backlinks. Of course, not every website is one of a kind, however, each website does have each own characteristics and each product has its pros and cons. Find your unique selling point and work hard to polish your best jewel.
Interesting & Valuable Content
Content is king, so don’t forget to treat it with respect and care. Combine keyword research and competitor analysis to find a popular topic and create the best possible guide to satisfy any questions a users might have on a subject. If you are better than Wikipedia, you have all chances to steal their spotlight.
Use professional SEO consultancy
As self-promotional as it might seem, hiring professional SEO and/or content services can be a great investment that can not only help you achieve your goals, but also educate you along the way so you will know exactly what to do and where to start if you decide to continue on your own. Even if you are an experienced marketing professional yourself, a fresh, expert look can bring new ideas and energise your efforts.
Buy backlinks to your site
And the last one is the most straightforward. Yes, there are still plenty of services specialising in link building, and you can still pay to get a link or thousands of them. However, it is extremely important to know how to build links correctly and to be aware that quality is the key. In order to do it right, you will need to know what a certain website has in order to bring you any SEO value. Blind link building can be a harmful and a very high expense, so ensure that you fully understand what will be published, how, where, and why.